Religion & the Religious in Cuba

Photo Feature by Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 16 – Religion is a phenomenon that has accompanied the development of Cuban society, and it unquestionably revived after 1990, with the beginning of the “Special Period.”  That economic crisis brought the need for atonement.

On the one hand this was necessary to confront very difficult living situations, and on the other to face material and social vulnerability. This points to protection as being an important social function of religion.

Religious diversity is a characteristic feature of Cuban society, blending Catholicism, Spiritualism, Santeria, Regla de Ocha and others.

Religiousness in Cuba is characterized by being empirical (e.g. oral transmission), with its constant references to daily life; offering magical solutions to material problems through the control of the supernatural; divination and protection rituals and the attractiveness of their ceremonies through the use of festivals merged with mysteries and legends (patakies).

It has a utilitarian nature. It’s more a means that an end and more emotive than rational.

These days one can observe more people buying religious symbols – visible ones, such as crucifixes, necklaces, bracelets, clothing; those utilized in ceremonies, rituals or acts of consultation, cleaning and divination – like sea shells and others that serve as amulets, such as the seed called the ojo de buey (ox eye).

There also are religious images that syncretize with African deities and even with Native Americans (in North America) that protect homes, as does “the eye” (del mal de ojos).

These articles can be bought from both self-employed vendors (cuentapropistas) and in State-owned and run stores. There exist suitable conditions for their existence and reproduction.

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